The union movement that kicked off across the country more than a year ago has continued its momentum in 2022, with workers in warehouses, coffee shops, grocery stores and airlines pushing for representation.
Working conditions during the pandemic pushed many of these frontline workers to organize, but fears about the economy and a potential recession could stand to curb the union boom if the job market shifts.
Unions can help workers secure better pay, schedules and job security through contract agreements, but some organizers claim their employers retaliate against them and endanger their livelihoods.
Workers like Robert “Rab” Bradlea, 32, are willing to take on this risk, despite recession talk. Bradlea scaled back his hours at Trader Joe’s Wine Store in New York City and picked up a second job as he and some of his coworkers sought to unionize.
Bradlea said the move to organize under the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union had the support of most of his coworkers. Some opposed joining a union, either because of previous experience or fear of losing their jobs. But Bradley thought only he and his fellow organizers were putting themselves at risk.
“I thought they would look for ‘bad apples’ and weed out organizers specifically, rather than torch an entire store,” Bradlea said.
Instead, before the beloved wine store could even file a petition for a union election, Trader Joe’s abruptly closed the location on Aug. 11, telling employees that same day. Trader Joe’s spokesperson Nakia Rohde said in a statement to CNBC that the grocer opted to close the “underperforming” store to support its Union Square grocery store using the wine shop’s space ahead of the holiday season.
2022’s union boom
So far, this year has proved to be a success for the labor movement. Union petitions from Oct. 1 through June 30 were up 58% over the prior year, to 1,892, according to the National Labor Relations Board.
By May of this year, petitions for the year had exceeded the total number of filings in all of last year. The NLRB has yet to release full year data, but a CNBC analysis of filings shows nearly 900 more petitions in fiscal year 2022 over last year’s numbers.
This comes at a time when public approval of labor unions continues to climb. Recent Gallup data show 71% of Americans now approve of labor unions, up from 68% last year and 64% pre-pandemic. The measure is at its highest level on record since 1965.
The job market, particularly for retail trade, accommodation, food services and transportation and warehousing workers, is still favoring employees, with a combined 1 million more job openings today in those three sectors compared with pre-pandemic levels.
“Right now in the retail space, we have so many more jobs than we do workers, and that puts disproportionate power in our hands right now because the company needs them almost as much as we need them,” said Hannah Smith, an employee at the recently unionized REI store in Berkeley, California.
REI did not respond to a request for comment from CNBC.
The shift in the balance of power has led some employers to hike pay and enhance other benefits. For example, Amazon said on Wednesday that it’s hiking average hourly pay from $18 to more than $19 for warehouse and delivery workers. The announcement comes ahead of its annual Prime Day promotion and a busy holiday season, as well as a union election in Albany next month.
As the Federal Reserve continues to aggressively raise interest rates to fight inflation and cool down the economy, market watchers, economists and executives are warning of a potential recession in 2023. If the economy cools off, the union movement may follow suit, according to Catherine Creighton, director of Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations branch in Buffalo. But it seems unlikely in the short term.
“I think it will certainly make it more difficult if we do have a recession, where it’s harder for employees to find other employment, they [may] be less likely to take the risk of unionization,” Creighton said. “I don’t see that we are in that position at this point, because employers are still having a really hard time filling jobs, the baby boomers have retired and all evidence points to the fact that the labor market is going to be favorable to employees in the near future.”
For now, advocates believe the momentum will be hard to slow down. Whether it’s petitions or other wins, like a California law that creates a council to govern the fast-food industry labor conditions, 2022 has been a banner year for organizing.
“I think it’s the collective action that you’re seeing that isn’t going to get stopped by whatever the recessionary forces are, because working people have walked through fire during this pandemic, showed up every day to work, in many cases risk their lives,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union. “And they’re ready to expect more in their work life and demand dignity and respect on the job.”
Starbucks petitions slow down
Some employees say interest in organizing has fallen somewhat as their employers appear to fight back, using tactics like shuttering stores, firing organizers and offering tantalizing benefits to non-union shops only.
At Starbucks, for example, the number of union petitions fell every month from March through August. There was a slight uptick in September with 10 petitions filed so far, according to the NLRB.
Since interim CEO Howard Schultz returned to the company in April, Starbucks has adopted a more aggressive strategy to oppose the union push and invest in its workers.
In May, the company announced enhanced pay hikes for non-unionized stores and extra training for baristas that went into effect in August after holding feedback sessions with its employees. The union has said the coffee giant is illegally withholding the benefits from cafes, but Starbucks maintains it cannot offer new benefits without negotiations for union shops. Legal experts predict the benefits battle will wind up before the NLRB.
“Our focus is on working directly with our partners to reimagine the future of Starbucks. We respect our partners rights to organize but believe that working directly together – without a 3rd party – is the best way to elevate the partner experience at Starbucks,” Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges told CNBC.
Tyler Keeling works as barista trainer at a Starbucks in Lakewood, California, which has voted to unionize, and also is organizing other stores with Starbucks Workers United. He said the additional benefits not being offered to unionized stores has both intimidated and motivated people, and that better pay is important in this economic climate.
“People are seeing that Starbucks is willing to kind of mess with their livelihood to prevent this union, and that scares people. But at the end of the day, as far as it is driving people to not organize, it’s also driving people to organize,” Keeling said.
He added that he believes once the union makes continued progress on having fired workers reinstated and is successful in having benefits extended to union stores, there will be more headway made on petitions.
And stores are still pushing for more despite the threat of a looming recession. Billie Adeosun, Starbucks barista and organizer in Olympia, Washington, said unionizing is a “big risk,” claiming losing your job is a “real possibility,” but the prospect of successful contract negotiations with better pay and benefits is a motivator.
“Most of us make $15 to $18 an hour and none of us are working 40 hours a week, and that’s just not a living wage,” Adeosun said. “A lot of us have to get a second job or rely on government assistance to pay our bills, so yeah, we are terrified to be doing this work in spite of the economy and the fact that it is just falling apart right in front of us.”
About 240 locations out of its 9,000 company-owned cafes have voted to unionize as of Sept. 22, according to the National Labor Relations Board. But contract negotiations could help or hinder the push to unionize the nation’s largest coffee chain.
Hannah Whitbeck (C) of Ann Arbor, Michigan, speaks as Alydia Claypool (L) of Overland Park, Kansas, and Michael Vestigo (R) of Kansas City, Kansas, all of whom say they were fired by Starbucks, listen during the “Fight Starbucks’ Union Busting” rally and march in Seattle, Washington, on April 23, 2022.
Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images
BTIG analyst Peter Saleh said signs of progress on a contract between the union and Starbucks could be one catalyst to reaccelerate organizing. On the other hand, if they don’t reach an agreement, workers can vote to decertify the union after a year.
So far, Starbucks has only begun negotiating with three stores, two in New York and one in Arizona. But the company said Monday that it sent letters to 238 cafes offering a three-week window in October to start negotiations.
And despite the petition slowdown at Starbucks, organizers’ success has inspired workers elsewhere, like Bradlea, the Trader Joe’s employee.
“Their stores are about the same number people as the Trader Joe’s wine store. This is doable, and they’re succeeding at it,” he said.
Power in the balance
Even with talk of a potential recession, some workers say they’re undeterred, given the competitive job market. Brandi McNease, organizer at a now-closed location of Chipotle Mexican Grill in Augusta, Maine, said the decision to petition was driven by the power workers have and the current economic climate.
“We looked around at the endless now-hiring signs plastered on every fast food drive-through menu and decided that we could just quit and take another job or we could fight, and if we lost, still take another job,” McNease told CNBC in an email.
The store was the first to file for a union election at the burrito chain, and the company said the location was permanently closed due to staffing challenges, not the union petition. Workers called the move retaliatory and have filed multiple unfair labor practice charges against the company with the NLRB, McNease said.
Chipotle declined to comment.
Some workers say the last recession has informed the need for better worker protections today, and now is the time to push.
“I had coworkers who lived through the 2008 recession and had a really tough time finding jobs then,” said Smith, the REI employee in California. “Creating a union now, it felt like a way to protect for that in the future.”
From Cartel to Evangelist: The Inspiring Journey of Juan Reyes, Puerto Rico’s Entrepreneur and Author
In the realm of entrepreneurship, few stories are as captivating and inspiring as that of Juan Reyes, a self-made entrepreneur and author hailing from Juncos, Puerto Rico. Despite being born into a low-income family, Reyes defied the odds and carved his path to success through sheer determination, hard work, and an unwavering commitment to his goals. From establishing thriving businesses to becoming a renowned author, Reyes’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of entrepreneurship and the indomitable spirit of an individual driven by faith and dedication.
A Journey Born out of Necessity
Growing up in Juncos, Puerto Rico, Juan Reyes faced significant challenges stemming from his family’s financial limitations. To support himself and contribute to his family’s well-being, Reyes began working from a young age. However, he never allowed his circumstances to dampen his dreams or extinguish his ambition. Determined to change his destiny, Reyes embarked on a path that would not only uplift his own life but also inspire countless others.
A Multifaceted Entrepreneur
Reyes’s entrepreneurial acumen led him to establish several successful ventures that have made a profound impact. Among his notable accomplishments are King of Credit Repair LLC, KCL Clothing Inc, and Shalom Renovation LLC. These enterprises not only generated substantial revenue but also provided employment opportunities for others. Reyes’s astute understanding of business markets, coupled with his expertise in real estate, notary services, modeling, and preaching, contributed to his ability to transform businesses from scratch into multi-million dollar ventures.
Authorship and Beyond
In addition to his entrepreneurial pursuits, Juan Reyes is also a respected author. His debut book, “From the Cartel to the Evangelist,” has garnered significant attention and acclaim. This captivating literary work chronicles Reyes’s personal journey, from overcoming adversity to finding redemption and purpose through his faith. The book serves as a testament to Reyes’s resilience and unwavering determination, inspiring readers to believe in their own potential and navigate their own paths to success.
Sponsored by Christian Faith Publishing
Reyes’s literary endeavors have received a significant boost through the sponsorship of Christian Faith Publishing. This collaboration has allowed Reyes to reach a wider audience with his powerful message of transformation, faith, and the pursuit of entrepreneurship. The partnership between Reyes and Christian Faith Publishing (visit the website here) has opened doors for him to inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs and individuals seeking personal growth.
Recognizing the significance of his own journey, Juan Reyes has made it his mission to give back to society and uplift others. Through speaking engagements and mentoring programs, Reyes shares his knowledge, unique ideas, and experiences with business leaders and young individuals alike. His teachings have become a beacon of hope for those who have faced similar challenges and made similar mistakes, demonstrating that even a fallen business can rise to great heights.
The Pride of Juncos, Puerto Rico
Juan Reyes remains deeply connected to his roots in Juncos, Puerto Rico. His success story has not only become a source of pride for the local community but also an inspiration for the youth in the neighborhood. Reyes’s achievements serve as a testament to the transformative power of entrepreneurship, instilling hope and motivating aspiring entrepreneurs to strive for greatness despite their circumstances.
Juan Reyes’s journey from a humble upbringing in Juncos, Puerto Rico, to becoming a renowned entrepreneur and author is a testament to the triumph of resilience, determination, and faith. Through his businesses, writing, and mentorship, Reyes exemplifies the boundless potential that lies within every individual. He reminds us that with unwavering dedication and a strong belief in oneself, anyone can rise above adversity and create a life of purpose and success. Juan Reyes is an inspiration, not only to entrepreneurs but to all those who dare to dream big and overcome the odds.
Disney CEO Bob Iger rips Ron DeSantis over ‘anti-Florida’ retaliation
Bob Iger, CEO, Disney, during CNBC interview, Feb. 9, 2023.
Randy Shropshire | CNBC
Bob Iger on Monday called Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ actions against The Walt Disney Co. retaliatory, “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
The feud between DeSantis and the company escalated earlier Monday, when the governor asked the state’s inspector general to determine whether the House of Mouse’s sly move to retain control over the outer limits of Orange and Osceola counties is legal – and whether any of the company’s executives were involved in the scheme.
During the company’s annual shareholder meeting Monday, Disney CEO Iger addressed investor inquiries about the ongoing dispute between the company and Florida legislators. He noted that Disney has more than 75,000 employees in the state, and has created thousands of indirect jobs, as well as brings around 50 million visitors to Florida every year and is the state’s largest taxpayer
“A year ago, the company took a position on pending Florida legislation,” Iger said, apparently referring to what critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “And while the company may have not handled the position that it took very well, a company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do.”
He added: “The governor got very angry about the position Disney took and seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property and the business. In effect, to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right. And that just seems really wrong to me.”
Iger said Disney plans to spend more than $17 billion in investments at Walt Disney World over the next decade, which would create around 13,000 jobs at the company and generate even more taxes for Florida.
“Our point on this is that any action that supports those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida,” he said. “And I’ll just leave it at that.”
Last week, DeSantis’ newly appointed board of the Reedy Creek district, now named the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, revealed that the previous Disney-allied board signed a long-lasting agreement that drastically limits the control that can be exercised over the company and its district.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during ‘The Florida Blueprint’ event on Long Island, New York, United States on April 1, 2023. Ron DeSantis made comments on the Grand Jury’s indictment of Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States in Manhattan, New York.
Kyle Mazza | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
The agreement was signed on Feb. 8, the day before the Florida House voted to put DeSantis in charge. DeSantis replaced all of the Disney-allied board members with five Republicans on Feb. 27. It was only then that Disney’s new binding agreement was discovered.
The agreement includes a clause that dates back to 1692 in Britain. The “Declaration shall continue in effect until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England, living as of the date of this declaration,” the document said.
The governor’s letter calls the board’s agreement an attempt to “usurp the authority of the CFTOD board” and “nullify the recently passed legislation, undercut Florida’s legislative process, and defy the will of Floridians.”
He said at the agreement also has “legal infirmities” including inadequate notice, improper delegation of authority and ethical violations.
Disney, however, has said that all of the board’s maneuvers were completely legal — the agreement was discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums, in compliance with Florida’s Sunshine law.
The development in DeSantis’ conflict with Disney marks just the latest move in one of several partisan battles being waged by the Republican governor.
DeSantis is widely believed to be laying the groundwork to launch a 2024 presidential campaign. That move is expected to come not long after the current Florida legislative session ends in early May. Polls show that DeSantis is the most competitive of the potential opponents for former President Donald Trump in a GOP primary.
The Florida governor took aim at Disney after the company publicly balked at Florida’s HB 1557 law early last year. HB 1557, which critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, limits early education teachings on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Republican state Rep. Randy Fine told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last April that the bill dissolving Reedy Creek wasn’t retaliatory, but then said “when Disney kicked the hornet’s nest, we looked at special districts.”
Until recently, there had been no major public discussion about dissolving Disney’s long-established special district, which it’s occupied for 55 years, leading DeSantis’ critics to question its timing and the speed at which the governor acted against the company.
The fight between DeSantis and Disney shows no signs of slowing down. During a book tour stop in Georgia last week, DeSantis told attendees “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
WWE near deal to be sold to UFC parent Endeavor, sources say
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Chairman Vince McMahon appears in the ring during the WWE Monday Night Raw show at the Thomas & Mack Center August 24, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller | Getty Images
A deal could be announced as soon as Monday. UFC and WWE are expected to form a new publicly traded company as part of the agreement, according to the people, who declined to be named due to the confidential nature of the discussions.
Endeavor is slated to own 51% of the new combat sports and entertainment company, while WWE shareholders would get 49%, according to the people. The Endeavor deal gives WWE an enterprise value of $9.3 billion, they said.
Emanuel is expected to act as chief executive of both Endeavor and the new company. McMahon, likewise, is expected to be executive chairman, while Endeavor President Mark Shapiro will also work in the same role at the new company. Dana White will remain as president of UFC, while WWE CEO Nick Khan will serve as president of the wrestling business.
The development comes during the same weekend WWE hosts its flagship live event, WrestleMania, in California. The company has spent the past several months looking for a buyer. McMahon returned to the company as chairman in January to oversee the process. Shares of WWE are up more than 33% so far this year, giving it a market value of more than $6.79 billion.
The deal will effectively end WWE’s decades-old status as a family-run business. McMahon’s father founded WWE in its original incarnation during the middle of the 20th century, and McMahon is the controlling shareholder in the company. McMahon bought the company from his father in 1982. Since then, the company has grown into a global phenomenon, spawing stars suck as Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dave Bautista and John Cena.
McMahon, 77, retired from the company in July following a string of revelations that he paid several women millions of dollars over the years to keep them quiet about alleged affairs and misconduct. His daughter, Stephanie McMahon, became co-CEO alongside Khan. Paul Levesque, who’s both Stephanie McMahon’s husband and the wrestler known as Triple H, took over creative duties from Vince McMahon.
When Vince McMahon came back in January, Stephanie McMahon stepped down and Khan fully assumed the CEO role. The elder McMahon recently locked in a two-year employment contract, according to a securities filing.
Khan in recent weeks has been making the media rounds to discuss the potential sale. He told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan on Thursday that it’s been a robust sale process, drawing many interested buyers.
WWE brings with it a robust media and live events business, along with its decades worth of intellectual property. The company generated $1.29 billion in revenue last year, driven mainly by its $1 billion media unit.
UFC has paid off for Endeavor. Last year, the MMA league helped Endeavor’s sports business make $1.3 billion in revenue. Endeavor’s market cap stood at about $10.53 billion as of Friday’s close. The Endeavor-WWE deal values UFC at more than $12 billion.
WWE, at least at a glance, would also fit well with the cultures at Endeavor and UFC. McMahon has a brash public persona, making him an apparently good match for Emanuel and White, who are also known for their outsized personalities.
White, like McMahon, is no stranger to scandal, either. Earlier this year, video emerged showing the UFC boss slapping his wife during a public argument at a New Year’s Eve party in Mexico. White apologized.
Disclosure: Peacock, the streaming service owned by CNBC parent NBCUniversal, carries WWE events such as WrestleMania.
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